Posts Tagged ‘national security’

This government’s back-of-the-envelope approach to national security must change

21/04/2011, 04:05:03 PM

by Matt Cavanagh

Con Coughlin’s article in today’s Telegraph will make uncomfortable reading for those Conservatives (and News International journalists) who like to pretend that Cameron’s national security council (NSC) is a genuinely radical reform based on a serious attempt to learn the lessons of the last decade. Coughlin writes:

“To judge by the NSC’s increasingly inchoate response to the challenge presented by Gaddafi’s regime, it seems to me that all it has achieved so far is the replacement of Blair’s much-derided “sofa government” with a new, back-of-the-envelope approach.”

argued in November that Cameron had persistently over-sold his reforms to our national security machinery, which really amounted to “a tinkering and re-badging exercise”. In the first couple of weeks of the Libyan crisis, the continuing lack of strategy, coherence, and grip was obvious.

The narrative changed when Cameron was able to take the credit for British diplomatic efforts to secure UNSCR 1973, and for being one of the first leaders to call for military intervention. The changed narrative didn’t change the facts – that Cameron’s call for intervention was more a response to immediate domestic pressure than part of a real strategy, and that UNSCR 1973 itself didn’t seem to be part of a real strategy – but it did push these inconvenient facts into the background. At that stage, what mattered was that Cameron seemed to be winning the international argument.

Now what matters is who is winning on the ground. The curiously timed joint letter by Sarkozy, Cameron and Obama, insisting that Gaddafi must go, hasn’t made that outcome any more likely compared to the various possible outcomes which leave him in place – the potential collapse of the revolution outlined by Anthony Loyd in this month’s Prospect, or a protracted stalemate, or a messy negotiated settlement. The letter has, however, increased the extent to which the West’s reputation, as well as Libyans’ future, is on the line.

It might therefore be time to look again, not just at the implications of the Libyan crisis for our defence and foreign policy – reopening or updating the strategic defence and security review (SDSR) – but also at the implications for our national security machinery. It needs real reform, rather than tinkering and re-badging, if we are to increase the chances of our foreign and security policy being driven by strategy rather than emerging out of the interaction between media coverage, domestic politics, and bureaucratic dysfunction.

Matt Cavanagh was a special adviser on defence in the ministry of defence, treasury, and Downing Street from 2005 to 2010.

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The government is playing fast and loose with Britain’s security

08/11/2010, 09:00:34 AM

by John Woodcock

David Cameron and Nick Clegg look more like a political yin and yang with every day that passes. The unseemly deal we have just witnessed between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on Trident and tuition fees highlights the way the two leaders have intertwined their fate.

We should be in no doubt about what has happened – the Lib Dems have spectacularly broken their word on higher fees in return for securing a delay on renewing the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent.

On one level, this is simply base horse trading upon which the dynamics of coalition politics have shone a light. But it is initially hard to understand why Nick Clegg should have been prepared to swallow such humiliation for himself while his coalition partners seem relatively unscathed. Until, that is, you consider the less obvious but potentially equally severe damage to Cameron’s reputation from messing around with Trident renewal in the way that he has.

The reaction from key Conservative backbenchers on this has been derisory and unremittingly hostile. They point out that the UK’s ultimate means of defending itself is the last issue on which a prime minister should have been prepared to trade. They worry about the extra cost and risk piled on the project by delaying the build timetable and punting the ‘main gate’ investment decision to the other side of a general election.

As the MP representing the thousands of workers in Barrow shipyard whose economic future depends on continuing orders, and as part of an opposition which wants Britain to remain credible on protecting its citizens, I am not afraid to say that I share those concerns. (more…)

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